Katie Bennett has taken part in five marathons, including the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington alongside her brother-in-law, Dwayne Osgood. All the while, Osgood, a former Navy lacrosse player, was battling brain cancer.
In December, Osgood succumbed to the disease. But Bennett won’t stop running now. On Nov. 7, she will compete in the New York City Marathon, and is open to adding more endurance-testing events to her resume to honor her late brother-in-law.
“I think that any kind of badass, ridiculous athletic event that most people would say, ‘Why on earth would you do that?’ feels like I’m paying tribute to Dwayne,” Bennett said. “Not that he loved running marathons because I distinctly remember before his diagnosis, he ran a half marathon when [Bennett’s sister and Osgood’s wife] Elizabeth and I ran a marathon, and he was like, ‘I don’t know why I keep doing this. Every time I start running and I pass Mile 4, I always say, this was a stupid idea.’ He would roll his eyes at something, and he would never say that he was really enjoying it, but he would keep doing it because he knew that was going to keep pushing him forward.”
Katie Bennett has joined the National Brain Tumor Society to run with the Gray Nation Endurance Team to raise awareness and money for brain cancer research. On the National Brain Tumor Society’s website, she has received $2,582 in commitments towards a goal of $3,000.
Katie Bennett naturally has a vocal supporter in Elizabeth.
“It’s really exceptional and a way for us to feel like we’re still spending time with him,” Elizabeth Bennett said. “Obviously, he’s no longer physically with us, and we’re a family based on faith. So he will always be with us. So I think this is her way of remembering him and be able to hopefully raise funds to support people who have the same or similar diagnosis down the road.”
Osgood, a former Marine company executive officer and company commander who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2005, began experiencing headaches in March 2019. A CT scan revealed a diagnosis of glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer that does not have a known cure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A month-long process of daily chemotherapy and weekday treatments of radiation helped to the point where Osgood participated in his fifth Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27, 2019. Former Navy faceoff specialist Chris Pieczonka, who was one of more than a dozen of Osgood’s former teammates who joined him for the run, said Osgood was his usual sarcastic but determined self.
“There was a point kind of five miles in when his calves tightened up, and he was like, ‘Let’s stretch out a bit,’” said Pieczonka, who runs several F45 Training facilities in Denver. “We were like, ‘You know, you don’t have to do this.’ He was like, ‘[Forget] that. I’m doing it.’ That’s just how Dwayne was. He was one of those guys that didn’t care about the excuses. If he set his mind to do something, he was going to do it. That was obviously indicative of who he was and how he dealt with cancer the whole time.”
Shortly after the marathon, however, cancer returned, and a series of treatment plans did little to prevent the disease from ravaging Osgood’s body. The once-burly two-way midfielder was dizzy often, lost his motor ability, had his vision deteriorate, and was isolated to a bed in September 2020.
Former Navy midfielder Daniel Neverosky, several teammates and former Midshipmen coach Richie Meade visited Osgood in September at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he said they had braced themselves for Osgood’s appearance.
“You have an image of someone that you know them by, and Dwayne was this big, strong guy,” said Neverosky, a Navy commander. “So when you saw him, it was a little jolting. But at the same time, he owned it, and after the first second, he was just in a bed, but up and about. He still owned the room, which was no surprise.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Osgood completed hospice care at home. But Elizabeth Bennett, 37, said the silver lining was the opportunity for her, daughters Olivia, 8, and Eleanor, 7, and son Paxton, 3, to spend more time with their husband and father.
“I’m somebody who definitely realizes that there is a plan, and that plan could not have been more perfect because we were able to spend time together in 2020 when things started to go a little south,” she said. “I was there for all of it, and I was there because of COVID.”
On Dec. 19, Dwayne Osgood died at the age of 40 surrounded by his immediate family and many extended family members. A memorial service at the Naval Academy to bury his ashes in an urn took place April 26, and the outpouring of emotion from Osgood’s friends and classmates inspired Katie Bennett.
“For me, his death has taught me that nobody in this life is guaranteed any length of time, and I’ve really tried to live that every day,” said Katie Bennett, a 27-year-old student who is pursuing a master’s in astrophysics at Wesleyan University. “I think a lot of people — myself included — always just lived assuming they were going to live to an old age. I feel like I’ve really lost that expectation.”
Now, Katie Bennett will run in Osgood’s honor. Another sister, Rebecca, who is Elizabeth’s twin, will also run in New York.
Katie Bennett, who said her aim is to break the four-hour mark, said she is competing in the marathon not for closure, but to achieve an objective.
“For me, I feel like it’s exactly what Dwayne would have done if he was still here,” she said. “So I kind of just want to emulate that. It’s a sense of purpose in that it’s a way for me to channel this sadness I have into doing something meaningful that Dwayne would have done.”
Elizabeth Bennett, who recently finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 20 minutes and 42 seconds, said she was driven by a conversation with her husband Dwayne during the race.
“In endurance sports, there are peaks and valleys during the course, and during a lot of them, I’m thinking, ‘I could use some motivation.’ And I can hear him telling me, ‘Suck it up, buttercup,’” she said. “Or he had this euphemism — it wasn’t his own, he read it somewhere — that became a motto of his during his whole diagnosis, and that was to be present with what you’re doing. Even if it sucks, just recognize all the people that are out here, all the other runners, all the effort that went into this, and just be thankful that you have the opportunity to do it again.
“So I’m always trying to channel the Dwayne that I know and love to help me over and through the toughest hills because he was always that positive influence when he was with us.”
Elizabeth Bennett, who is a member of the Navy reserves, and her children are living in Jacksonville so that she can undertake training on how to fly drones for the military branch. She said she is unsure whether they will be able to attend the New York City Marathon in person, but she is enormously grateful for how her sister and her husband’s friends and teammates are paying tribute to her husband.
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“We all want to keep his memory alive, and it’s hard especially when we get together to not have stories about him,” she said. “But that is my promise to him, that I will always talk about him, that I will always tell about the silly and funny things he did. He played pranks on me because that was his personality, and I loved it. I know that his friends want to do the same as well.”